Top Eleven ARGs

On February 10, 2006 by Christy

*** Update: 4th March 2006: This post updated with extensive data here *** 

One thing industry likes is Top Tens. They like to see at a glance what are the top services, etc. No wasting time figuring out which ones are more successful, just a list of the top ten according to usage and/or ROI. Well, for my work at LAMP I do a few Top Tens. I did a list of Top Ten Mobisodes late last year, though that was not based on revenues or usage since I didn’t have data on either. Just a listing of seemingly popular mobisodes worldwide. The following are ARGs (alternate reality games) that are listed according to the amount of players. Some have a much bigger initial signup and then have alot less that actually play. I’ve listed them, initially, according to the ongoing players. Also, I’ve listed 11, as I’m not quite sure of the order of the last few.

  1. I Love Bees (aka Haunted Apiary), 42 Entertainment for Microsoft, 2004 (3 mill+ players worldwide);
  2. The Beast, Sean Stewart et al for Microsoft & Dreamworks, 2001 (3 mill players worldwide) [Cloudmakers];
  3. Last Call Poker, 42 Entertainment for Activision, 2005;
  4. MetaCortechs, independent [Project Mu credits] (1.3 mill, 113 countries);
  5. Majestic, Electronic Arts, 2001 (800,000 initially registered, 70,000 ongoing players);
  6. Jamie Kane, BBCi, 2005/.. (20,000+ players)
  7. ReGenesis Extended Reality Game, Xenophile Media for The Movie Network and Movie One, 2004;
  8. Art of the Heist, various for Audi, 2005 (500,000 website visitors, on-going players ?);
  9. Lockjaw, independent, 2002 [Jawbreakers];
  10. Urban Hunt, independent, 2004 [unfiction forum];
  11. Perplex City, Mind Candy, 2005/.. (?00,000s website visits, 14,000+ players worldwide).

The stats are according to data I have found on websites, in papers, books and so on. I have not cited them here as that would be giving away too much! For the ARGs that are listed without stats, they are included because they are approximations according to anecdotal evidence. I’ve also had to weighup the market spin with the actual usage. Thankyou to Steve Peters of ARGN Network, for your help with this list (note: the order of ARGs mine however, don’t blame him if you disagree!). If anyone has any stats they can add or point out any blistering omissions, please email me.

I find this list interesting as I (and others) can use it to reverse engineer the effective design elements. The success of games that are recent shows that the genre is maturing, but also that there are more players. It makes the older games that have made it to this list all the more important too.

Added 11th Feb 2006:
Some notes on the stats and ordering. Unlike other genres with a retail figure or subscription model, ARGs don’t necessarily have fixed figures to measure by. The stats on usage can be derived from signups for games, sales of cards, registered users, forum members, blog users and website visits. But these change too, some have huge initial uptakes and then much lesser ongoing players. Also, what about the lurkers? There are many different types of players, including ones that maybe registered in a forum but do not participate in a manner that can be tracked. I’m sure there is a good healthy number of these as the work required to participate in ARGs is often quite large. [Though many are working on making ARGs playable on many levels, according to different player types etc.]. It would be good to have a system where “lurkers” could be captured at some point, with a quick tally other than unique website visits. I think the following are interesting and helpful values to measure ARGs by:

Website visits;
Media coverage;
Registered players;
Initial players & ongoing players;
ROI/brand-impact for client (if applicable);
Innovation/quality…

Oh, and I should say. This list is current up to late last year, early this year. So, the list needs to be updated of course, in time…